The Indian Super League gets under way in less than a month and the competition is set to attract more viewers than ever before as the appreciation of professional soccer in India continues to grow but who will reign supreme come March? Who will fall at the last hurdle? Who has a long season ahead? And who are the players to watch?
Here we look at all things ISL and provide our insight into five key things to keep an eye on.
5 – THE NEW BOY ON THE BLOCK
Northeast United head coach Robert Jarni, an ex- Croatian international player, has used every ounce of charm to land the signing of the summer in the shape of Black Stars frontman Asamoah Gyan. Perhaps Gyan’s most high-profile spell was with Sunderland in the English Premier League table but he’s made a career scoring goals. He’s notched 136 goals in 331 appearances with a goal involvement every 121 minutes and his new fans can expect to see a few more.
4 – THE STRUGGLERS
Last time out it was Chennaiyin who finished rock bottom with just nine points and they also had the worst ‘goals for’ and ‘goals against’ ratio. The side closest to them was Kerala Blasters who ended six points clear in ninth place. A feat that would rival with the current Miami Dolphins team, as the NFL team had the worst beginning of season ever in history.
Chennaiyin have added highly rated keeper Vishal Kaith to their ranks, which might help with their frailties at the back but the loss of Brazilian midfield maestro Raphael Augusto (now with Bengaluru) is a huge blow. Throw in the fact that the likes of Kerala have landed Bartholomew Ogbeche – one of last years best performers – from Northeast United and it does seem that Chennaiyin might be like a pony amongst stallions once again.
3 – THE PLAY OFF FOUR
In the last campaign Goa and eventual ISL winners Bengaluru bossed things in the regular season with near identical records and both will be in the mix for the Championship again. Another team who fell just short of the title game last year, Northeast United, will be looking for nothing less than the play-offs and they’ll hope Gyan can more than cover the goals lost from the outgoing Ogbeche; if he does then they’ll be nailed on for another top four spot.
That leaves one place up for grabs. Last year Mumbai City finished third but could miss out in the coming campaign with Jamshedpur hopeful of improving on their fifth place position with new gaffer Antonio Iriondo at the helm.
2 – THE GOLDEN BOOT
It was 36-year-old forward Ferran Corominas who lead the scoring charts last year after making the net bulge 17 times in 20 games for Goa and it will take a monumental effort to surpass the experienced Spaniard. Coro, as he’s more commonly known, was hardly prolific in his homeland but since signing for Goa he’s been involved in an impressive 53 goals in just 47 matches.
Of course, Coro is another year older now and Gyan will have his eyes on topping the scoring charts whilst Ogbeche and Modou Sougou, Mubai City’s Senegalese midfielder, will be setting targets to improve on the 12 times they netted in 2018/19.
1 – THE CHAMPIONS
Goa will be backed by many to get their hands on the trophy after coming agonisingly close last year especially if Coro bangs in the goals again, but it would be a brave person to bet against anything but consecutive glory for Bengaluru.
They were strong throughout the entirety of last season and they’ve improved their squad depth during the off season. The signing of Augusto from Chennaiyin is a great signing and the £80k move for Pune City’s winger Ashique Kuruniyan could be a brilliant long-term investment. The 22-year-old will feature heavily in the new season and you can expect him to contribute with goals and assists from the wide positions.
There you have it, five reasons why you should pay close attention to the proceedings during the season ahead.